An Unspoken Epidemic: Sexual Assault in the Military

True or False: A female soldier in combat zones is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire. The answer? TRUE

On Wednesday, June 20, 2012, WILPF, U.S. co-sponsored the New York City showing of "The Invisible War," which premiered as a part of the Human Rights Watch’s annual film festival. This groundbreaking investigative documentary exposes the epidemic of rape that has long existed, shrouded in silence, in the Armed Forces. "The Invisible War" sheds light on the extent of this shameful and underreported epidemic as it investigate the larger systems and institutions which perpetuate the epidemic of rape. This documentary reveals the very real, profound personal and social consequences of this problem too often ignored.

To get tickets and find out where "The Invisible War" is playing nearest you, visit:

To find out how you can make a difference and take action go to:

Ariana Klay (left) in Marine Dress Blues

Following the showing, film-makers Director Kirby Dick and Producer Amy Zeiring, along with Ariana Klay, a former Marine Officer whose story was highlighted in the documentary, and Ariana’s husband Ben Klay took questions from the audience. WILPF U.S.’s National Director, Tanya Henderson asked the panel what efforts had been made within the U.S. Department of Defense, if any, to address violence and sexual violence against women in the military under the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security issued by President Barack Obama on December 19, 2011.

For decades, WILPF has been making the explicit connection between militarism and violence against women, a connection which this film so blatantly makes. WILPF U.S.’s recent work on UNSCR1325 and development of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security specifically advocated for getting “our own house in order” by protecting women serving in the U.S. armed forces from physical and sexual assault.

In December of 2011, WILPF, U.S. released its “Report of the Civil Society Consultations on the Development of the United States National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (UN SCR 1325)” based on the findings of five civil society consultations held in September and October of 2011. The report finds that the “protection of women from violence, both at home and abroad, must be paramount to the U.S. NAP, particularly as violence is linked to the impact of U.S. militaries.“ This key recommendation in part rose out a consultation participant’s experiences working with women veterans, all of whom had survived sexual assault perpetrated by their “battle buddies.” It further argues that the NAP “must address the unique impacts of women in the military and must commit to a zero tolerance policy for the abuse of women in armed service.” The realities exposed in WILPF, U.S.’s Report of the Civil Society Consultations are only made more real by the deeply moving personal stories highlighted in the film. For the women that are made more visible by "The Invisible War," the effects of the rape epidemic are disastrous. For these women, and for all women, the elimination of sexual violence in conflict and the protection of their rights are critical.

"The Invisible War" is now in select theaters and will continue premiering throughout the country until mid-August. To find out more about this landmark documentary, visit the film’s website.

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